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Recession-Proof your Friendship

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Because we’re sick of doom and gloom recession stories, we’ve decided to look at this economic slowdown in a positive light.

We’re forced to be creative with our wardrobes, are saving the environment and our love lives with candlelight, and our bodies and bank balances are grateful for the ban on takeaways (which doesn’t include Friday nights). What’s slightly trickier, though, is reinventing our friendships in turbulent economic times, because even if money actually did grow on trees, it’d still cause tension among pals. But that’s no reason to let pesky penny problems come between you. Yes money conversations are often uncomforatable, but the only way to tackle them, is head on. A degree of subtlety is, however, advised.

“Let’s just split it”

“I used to hang out with a group much like the cast of Friends, and inevitably, we’d get together over dinner or drinks. And because they all earned a lot, we’d go to fancy places where I made sure I’d skip the starters and wine, and pick the reasonably priced pasta. They, on the other hand, would order oysters, bottles of wine, and even ordered cigars on one occasion, and when the hill came, we’d just split it. Not wanting to be the one to make a scene and point out that I’d have to pay three times what I ate, I went along with it until it became a trend, and I stopped hanging out with them.” Tracy

It sounds awfully cynical to say it out loud, but who hasn’t had an awkward money moment that didn’t leave you with feelings of resentment? If you want to keep friends with extravagant tastes, you’re going to have to speak up and say: “Sorry, I only have enough money to cover my meal”, or “How about we go for a picnic or take advantage of half-price-pizza Wednesdays?” There’s no shame in being budget-conscious.

“I’ll get the next one”

“I used to have a friend who was always around when it was my turn to get a round of drinks, or when my boyfriend splashed out on shooters for everyone. But when her turn came, she was always suspiciously in the bathroom or on the dance floor. She’d then miraculously emerge, drink in hand, not offering to buy one for any of us. Eventually, we got tired of her penny-pinching ways and stopped inviting her out.” Ayanda

Many frienships have come to a bitter end over loans gone bad. While it’s a selfless thing to do, you need to set rules.

Going to the bar to get drinks is usually a mission, which is why we’re always so grateful when someone offers to take one for the team and buy a round. Decent social etiquette dictates that you take turns forking out money for overpriced vodka, lime and water, so it’s seriously annoying when some people don’t read their memos. Don’t be afraid to call out a cheap friend on their sneaky behaviour. Jokingly remind her that it’s her turn to get the next round and if the issue persists, don’t include her in the next round and leave the ball in her court. If she wonders where her cocktail is, she’ll have to bring it up and you can say: “At the bar… and can you get me one while you’re there.”

“Can I hitch a ride?”

“A few weeks into my new job, the girl in the opposite cubicle asked me for a lift home. Eager to make friends. I obliged. Soon it became a routine. At first I didn’t mind, but then I’d end up sitting outside her house in the mornings because she was late, listen to her whine about life for 40 minutes in the traffic, and would have to stop at the garage so she could buy cigarettes. What’s worse is that she stopped giving me petrol money and had the gall to say ‘You were going that way anyway’. Eventually. I lied and told her I’d moved, and didn’t drive that way anymore. Katherine

We’ve all been in the position of having to depend on others to get to varsity, work, a hot guy’s house party or weekly yoga classes. And if someone’s really your friend, car pooling shouldn’t be too much of a hassle. Hell, they should be happy to have your company, save the environment and save some money, hopefully. Anyone getting a lift should offer to split petrol costs, whether the driver’s going that way or not – and even if her dad pays for her garage card. If you’re the driver, take a detour with your passengers to the petrol station and don’t be afraid to ask them for a fair contribution.

“I don’t have cash on me”

“We hang out with this really wealthy guy who somehow never has cash on him. We’re all sick of covering for him, especially as he never pays us back. Perhaps because money’s no object for him, he doesn’t understand what an inconvenience it is, but I’m this close to making a scene about it.” Leticia

While we can empathise with that sinking feeling that hits after you’ve ordered three drinks and a plate of nachos, only to realise you forgot to draw money, this is a pretty poor excuse, especially if it keeps happening. If you have a friend who’s willing to cover you, you should make an effort to pay them back is soon as possible. Alternatively, this is the part where you whip out your debit card and pay separately. As the paying friend, you should offer to walk your pal to the closest ATM. There’s one on ever corner, after all.

“You shouldn’t have. NO. really. You shouldn’t have.”

“One of my best friends has grown up with lots of money and has always been very giving, especially when it comes to gifts. They are always very thoughtful, but very over-the-top and expensive. Her birthday is a stressful time for me because I know I have to match her presents, which leaves me broke.” Lisa

Who doesn’t love being on the receiving end of a generous birthday present? But sometimes, such lavishness can make one uncomfortable, especially if you know you can’t reciprocate. Bring up the subject of a limit on gifts. You can still get something meaningful with R60 that isn’t a macaroni necklace or a voucher for a free hug.

“Can I borrow some bucks?”

“One of my closest friends is a waitress and needed help with her rent a few months ago. I still live with my parents and had the cash to spare, so lent her R2 000. She promised to pay me back when she could, but I haven’t seen a cent. What’s worse, is that I’ve seen her wearing new clothes, so I know she has money again.” Mikaela

Many friendships have come to a bitter end over loans gone bad. While it’s a very selfless thing to do, you need to set rules, especially over large sums of money. Think of it as a business deal and determine when she’ll be able to pay you back, and try to keep a record of the transaction with some kind of a receipt, whether it’s from an internet transfer or an ATM withdrawal. If you’re the one accepting the loan, pay your pal back as soon as you’re able to, even if you have to do it in installments. Just make sure she knows you haven’t forgotten and are making an effort. In the end, money squabbles are hardly ever about paying actual money, but rather about paying respect.

Text by Natalie Pool. Image by Gallo images/Getty Images.com. Taken from the November 09 edition of Cleo

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